Pyotr ll'yich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893): Songs, Volume 1
Pyotr ll'yich Tchaikovsky retains his position as the mostpopular of all Russian composers. His music offers obvious charms in itswinning melodies and vivid orchestral colours. At the same time his achievementis deeper than this, however tempting it may be to despise what so many peopleenjoy.
Born in Kamsko-Votkinsk in 1840, the second son of amining engineer, Tchaikovsky had his early education, in music as in everythingelse, at home, under the care of his mother and of a beloved governess. Fromthe age of ten he was a pupil at the School of Jurisprudence in St Petersburg,completing his studies there in 1859, to take employment in the Ministry of Justice.
During these years he developed his abilities as a musician and it must haveseemed probable that, like his near contemporaries Mussorgsky, Cui,Rimsky-Korsakov and Borodin, he would keep music as a secondary occupation,while following his official career.
For Tchaikovsky matters turned out differently. The foundationof the new Conservatory of Music in St Petersburg under Anton Rubinsteinenabled him to study there as a full-time student from 1863. In 1865 he movedto Moscow as a member of the staff of the new Conservatory established there byAnton Rubinstein's brother Nikolay. For over ten years he continued in Moscow, befOrefinancial assistance from a rich widow, Nadezhda von Meck, enabled him to leavethe Conservatory and devote himself entirely to composition. The same period inhis life brought an unfortunate marriage to a self-proclaimed admirer of his work,a woman who showed early signs of mental instability and could only add furtherto Tchaikovsky's own problems of character and inclination. His homosexualitywas a torment to him, while his morbid sensitivity and diffidence, coupled withphysical revulsion for the woman he had married, led to a severe nervousbreakdown.
Separation from his wife, which was immediate, still leftpractical and personal problems to be solved. Tchaikovsky's relationship with Nadezhdavon Meck, however, provided not only the money that at first was necessary forhis career, but also the understanding and support of a woman who, so far frommaking physical demands of him, never even met him face to face. This curiouslyremote liaison and patronage only came to an end in 1890 when, on the falseplea of bankruptcy, she discontinued an allowance that was no longer of importanceand a correspondence on which he had come to depend.
Tchaikovsky's sudden death in St Petersburg in 1893 gaverise to contemporary speculation and has given rise to further posthumous rumours.
It has been suggested that he committed suicide as the result of pressure froma court of honour of former students of the School of Jurisprudence, when anallegedly erotic liaison with a young nobleman seemed likely to cause an openscandal even in court circles. Officially his death was attributed to cholera,contracted after drinking undistilled water. Whether the victim of cholera, ofhis own carelessness or reckless despair or of death deliberately courted,Tchaikovsky was widely mourned.
During the course of his life Tchaikovsky wrote a hundredor so songs, the fIrSt before his entry to the Conservatory and the last in1893, the year of his death.
 Pesnya Zemfiri (Zemphira's Song), a setting ofdramatic words from Push kin's poem The Gypsies, retains elements ofdramatic dialogue, as Zemphira rejects her stern old husband, in favour of herlover. The Italian Mezza nolle (Midnight) , was written in the sameperiod, during the years between 1855 and 1860. This song, gently lilting as agirl sings of night as a time of love, was published in St Petersburg in 1865.
Zabit tak skoro (To forget so soon) , waswritten in 1870 and first performed in the following year at a concert in Moscowdevoted to Tchaikovsky's work. The singer on this occasion was the contralto ElizavetaLavrovskaya. The words of the song, a poignant reminiscence of past love, wereby Tchaikovsky's near contemporary and class-mate at the School of Jurisprudence,Alexey Nikolayevich Apukhtin.
The Six Romances, Opus 16, of 1872 start with a settingof words by Apollon Nikolayevich Maykov from his cycle of New Greek Songs, Thislullaby, Kolibelnayo pesnyo , was arranged for piano in 1873, It isdedicated to Nadezhda Rimsky-Korsakov and is followed by  Pogodi
(Wait), dedicated to her husband, The words by Nikolay Perfilyevich Grekov urgepatience, as life moves on.
The setting of Unosi moyo serdtse (Carry my heart away), appeared in the periodical Nouvelliste in October 1873, The text isby Manasy Manasyevich Fet, a leading Russian lyric poet of the century whom Tchaikovskyeventually met in 1891, and deals with a mysterious and ethereal love.
The six songs that form Opus 25 were written betweenthe autumn of 1874 and early 1875, The second of the set, Kak nad goryacheyuzoloy (As when upon hot ashes) , takes words by Fyodor Ivanovich Tyutchev,a former diplomat and Pan-Slavist who had recently died.
1875 brought a further set of six songs, Opus 27, continuingto serve a satisfactory market for works of this kind. These were dedicated to Elizaveta
Lavrovskaya. The third of the group, Ne otkhodi ot menyo
(Do not leave me) , is a setting of words by Fet from his cycle Melodies.
TchaikovskY's Opus 28, with six more songs, was published in 1875. Thefourth of these, On tak menyo lyubil (He loved me so much) , sets atranslation of a poem by Girardin, translated by Apukhtin. It is dedicated toEkaterina Massini.
Tchaikovsky wrote the seven songs of Opus 47 in thesummer of 1880 at his sister's house at Karnenka and at Brailov, the Ukraineestate of Nadezhda von Meck. He dedicated them to the soprano Alexandra Panayeva,on whom his brother Anatoly had unsuccessfully set his heart. The first song, Kabiznala ya (If I had known) , sets a poem by Alexey KonstantinovichTolstoy and tells of the girl whose lover rides by to the hunt and how shemight have awaited him in the evening, by the well. It is followed by  Gornimitikho letala dusha nebesami (A soul floated gently up to Heaven) by thesame poet. Here a soul, released from the body, longs for the earth again, thesong's inspiration, it seems, the duet between Christ and Mary Magdalene in Massenet'ssacred drama Marie-Magdeleine. The third, Na zemlyu sumrak pal (Darknesshas fallen over the Earth) , takes N. Berg's version of words by Mickiewicz,a sad meditation that has much to say in its prelude and postlude. Den li tsarit?
(Whether in the realm of day), Opus 47. No.6 , a poem by Apukhtin,expresses the single-mindedoess of one in love, her thoughts centred on herlover. Ya li v pole da ne travushka bila? (Was I not a blade of grass?), the seventh song, takes a version of Shevchenkos Ukrainian song by Ivan ZakharovichSurikov and tr